By Brian Paglia
Angela Williams didn't like what she saw, so she took the player's place. Knees bent in a wide stance, arms extended, she showed her Dutchtown girls basketball team exactly how she wanted them to pressure an opponent when it has the ball.
"Exert all your energy," she said.
Then she went back to midcourt. Practice continued, Dutchtown's last one before its Class AAAA semifinal game against Northwest Whitfield (28-3) at 4 p.m. at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Wait, wait. Another mistake. Practice came to a halt. Williams was a power forward now, standing as tall and as wide as possible in front of a Dutchtown boys basketball player.
She has found there is only one way to truly teach girls how to properly put pressure on the ball, front a post player, do the rudimentary things that characterize great teams, and she is uniquely capable of demonstrating technical facets of the game.
"I'll get out here and I'll play against them," Williams said.
"I'll do post moves on them and I'll say, 'Did you see that? Did you see why?' And then they understand. Now if I say the sky is purple, they'll probably believe me."
Indeed, Williams has shown Dutchtown (27-2) the way to become a successful program. The Lady Bulldogs are in the semifinals for the first time in the program's six-year existence.
Dutchtown's only winning seasons and playoff appearances in school history coincided with Williams' arrival last season.
The Lady Bulldogs are 48-8 under Williams. Before her arrival, Dutchtown girls basketball went 33-64 the previous four seasons.
Williams changed Dutchtown girls basketball the only way she knew how -- through the ravenous competitive drive that came innately to someone who battled her father in backyard games of H.O.R.S.E. as a kid, who battled high school opponents instructed to agitate the star high school player from Alabama, who battled through injury as a freshman on the Fayetteville State women's basketball team to reclaim her place as a starter.
"I've always been a competitor," Williams said.
Or maybe it was the discipline she learned in the U.S. Army, flying Attack Apache helicopters, one of only five African American women at the time.
That's where she met her husband, Lawrence, and traveled the world. She played and coach semi-professional basketball. She had a daughter, Candice, now 13 and the reason Williams entered the education system.
All of which led to last season. After a year as an assistant at Tri-Cities, Williams took over at Dutchtown.
Her Army background soon became evident to her new team.
"She was kind of intimidating," Dutchtown senior Alyssa Strickland said. "At first when we came out here, she was serious."
Serious about turning Dutchtown around.
"I don't tolerate a lot of foolishness," Williams said.
"A lot of these girls over here, they were very timid. On the basketball court, you've got to come out of your shell. So we spent a couple of days yelling at each other, hollering.
If I hollered louder than them, they had to run."
So now, Dutchtown responds to Williams with a chorus of, "Yes, coach."
"If we don't say, 'Yes, coach,' it's over," Strickland said. "It just shows a sign of respect."
Dutchtown players didn't know it, but when Williams instituted the policy, it was the first sign that things were about to change for the Lady Bulldogs.
In two years time, they have come to the precipice of the state championship with Williams showing them the way.
"She's like a mother figure for all of us," Strickland said. "If we need anything, coach will get it for us. She keeps us in check."